(Brittain's article appeared in the Guardian, 3/11.)
Waiting: detainees' wives get a voice their husbands never had
All the women in my new verbatim play, Waiting, found Britain an oasis of safety. Then 9/11 changed all that
For years I have witnessed the "war on terror" with an intimacy few outsiders have, through women living in Britain whose husbands were in Guantánamo Bay. Mutual friends put us in touch, and we became friends – across a gulf of language, culture, religion and experience.
Close up, I saw a truly frightening level of isolation, fear and despair. But I also heard touching love stories, saw the happiness of children placed above everything else, and an extraordinary resilience drawn from faith. Through these women, I met others, whose husbands were detained in Belmarsh prison under suspicion of terrorism – but with no charges brought. After their husbands' arrests, these women were abruptly isolated, even within their own communities. Their children's futures became unpredictable; the children themselves were scarred by confusion, fear, and – the older ones, sometimes – hatred. Under the pressure of incarceration (or, later, under house arrest), their husbands changed personality; they were gripped by paranoia; several went on hunger strike or tried to commit suicide; many remain on heavy medication.
(Victoria Brittain’s work is part of Acts of War: Iraq and Afghanistan in Seven Plays, forthcoming from Northwestern University Press.)
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